Similar to the Lonely Island and Pete Davidson before them, Please Don’t Destroy is a group of comedians who became known for their digital shorts on Saturday Night Live. They are now branching out from the show and making their own feature film. However, this trend seems to be leading to less successful results. The trio’s first feature comedy, Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain, was originally supposed to be released in theaters but ended up on Peacock instead. This seems to be a deliberate move to avoid drawing attention to the film. As comedy writers and actors, the members of Please Don’t Destroy (Martin Herlihy, John Higgins, and Ben Marshall) seem to be out of their element in the movie industry.
Their type of humor can be enjoyable in moderation, but I don’t mean to criticize their overall comedic style. I have liked some of their skits, especially the ones they shared on Twitter before joining SNL, during the strange time of Covid. When they’re at their peak, their comedy is wonderfully absurd and fast-paced, diving deep into a ridiculous interpretation – like imagining Spongebob as an old college acquaintance, Ben pretending to have Post Malone’s face tattoos, or making a Netflix documentary about Martin’s life – to the point of reaching magical realism and getting stuck in your mind. Their approach is silly, self-deprecating, and fueled by the easy chemistry of friends. These are the same guys who recently dressed up as Donkey, Puss in Boots, and Michael Jackson for a skit called “Bad Bunny Is Shrek,” and then admitted they came up with it at 1am.
Having a silly and fun time with your best friend at night may be entertaining for a short period of three minutes. However, it becomes much more challenging to sustain for 90 minutes. This is clear from watching Three Sad Virgins, a film directed by Paul Briganti, known for his work on SNL. The film, The Treasure of Foggy Mountain, falls short and fails to elicit any laughter.
In this particular setting, the members of the PDD gang portray characters with their own names, depicting their childhood bond as best friends and roommates in a small town surrounded by mountains. The trio are employed by Ben’s father (Conan O’Brien) at his store called Trout Plus, and they all face challenges while transitioning into adulthood. Martin, who wears glasses, is in a relationship with a devout Christian and is preparing for adult baptism. Ben’s suggestion to turn the Trout store into a kids’ hair salon is met with disapproval from his father. Meanwhile, John engages in online poker games with pre-teens and learns about a treasure map from TikTok. The group exchange surprised glances, perform a silly dance, and embark on an adventure.
The Treasure of Foggy Mountain has a dulling sense of inevitability to it. The PDD boys gained a following online, so they got on SNL; they had a script that feels like it was conceived in a night, so they got talent, financing and Judd Apatow’s backing; Foggy Mountain had business gravity so now, like a boulder rolling down a hill, there is a movie.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to have been much thought put into this. The journey of money and friendship is filled with lackluster shenanigans, including two former park rangers who are now competing hunters (played by Meg Stalter and X Mayo), a hidden tunnel, a strange CGI eagle, and a cult led by Bowen Yang (hopefully he was well-compensated). The comedic moments include characters flying in suits, performing the Soulja Boy dance, discussing the film Jennifer’s Body, opening an ancient door through harmonizing, and Stranger Things’ Gaten Matarazzo appearing as himself. I am mentioning these elements because there isn’t much else to say about them; the humor is weak and the overall enjoyment diminishes as time goes on. These sketches from Please Don’t Destroy would be considered mediocre even if they were condensed to a few minutes, and this includes two bits that come across as subpar imitations of Tim Robinson’s brilliantly bizarre sketch series, I Think You Should Leave.
If I can praise this film for anything, it’s the PDD members’ unshakable commitment to their bits. They do, at least, seem to be having a good time, or at least trying to see their numbers through to the finish, which goes fully off the rails once you meet the cult (it’s never a good sign when a Taser appears in a comedy). Already by that point, I was relying on the half-distraction of my phone to get me through the patter of quips that I assume worked much better on paper. I do, actually, root for Please Don’t Destroy, whose work has genuinely made me laugh many times. But as proof of concept for their internet comedy as feature film, please try again.
The film “Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain” is now available on Peacock in the United States, with a release in the UK planned for later this year.